Friday, March 21, 2014

Toddler math: The inverse velocity equation

Math was not my strongest subject in school, but I think I am able to remember enough of it to help my son all the way through algebra and geometry (when he hits calculus, we will need outside help). 

But there is one mathematical equation I didn't learn until I became a mom. And that is the inverse velocity equation. I could write it out as a fancy formula, but I think it works better as an example.
Background image by Shawn Campbell

This is how it works: The faster I need my son to move in the morning because we are running behind schedule, the slower he goes.

I have noticed that any motivation on my part is met with movement that's speed can only be described with imagery of food (depending on what part of the country you are from, you can think of molasses moving uphill or ketchup pouring from a new bottle.)

So, when I walked into my son's bedroom to find him standing in his room naked touching his toes, I wasn't really all that shocked.

"I thought you were getting dressed for school," I said to him.

"I wanted to do my stretches first," he said.

So, the naked yoga may or may not be my fault, but it is just one example of a growing overall trend: If I need my son to get ready to go in a hurry, I am going to be disappointed.

So, how do I help him with the issue of punctuality and timeliness?
  • Natural consequences: If we missed the cut-off time for him to get breakfast at school because he was a slowpoke, then he will be hungry until lunch.
  • Leading by example: I am a punctual person and if I am running late, I try to alert people ahead of time and I make those calls within his earshot so he can hear my apology.
  • Conversations about why being on time is essential to having nice manners (which seems to be important to him).
I've toyed with the idea of making him late for something he wants to go to, but I think that would teach him pettiness more than anything else.

Time is one of those elusive concepts when it comes to toddler math - there is never enough of it. Who hasn't wished that time would just stop once in a while?

Oh, well. What about your household? What do you do to stay on time? Tell me in the comments.


  1. Hi Lauren, thanks for your excellent insights. I have two children that are 2 years old and 7 months old. My 2 year old is not speaking yet, but his mother and I know he understands us. What do we do when we face a similar situation? Your ideas work well with a conversing child, but our 2 year old has a selective attention span and no matter what we do, he acts as if he has no idea what we want. Any assistance would be helpful.

    1. Hi, Chris. Thanks for reading!
      Help your little one play consequence games so they get a grasp of cause and reaction (when I let go of the balloon, it floats away; when I add food coloring to the water, it changes). Then simplify your house rules (walking feet, listening ears, respectful hands), so they understand there are rules that everyone has to follow. Be consistent in repeating them whenever necessary. (In this household, we use our walking feet so we don't fall.)
      Since your 2 year old isn't talkative yet, do you supplement with sign language? Before he talked, my son liked using signs for "more," "please," and "thank you." And we know that he liked having a way to communicate with us.
      And finally, I would repeat this phrase to myself every day, "My child is only two." There are lots of wonderful things that a two-year-old can do, but sometimes, we have to recognize limitations.